There may be a time for finger-pointing, but Sunday night was reserved for mourning.
At a candlelight vigil, the families of individuals who have been killed by police officers gathered to pray and remember their loved ones at St. Joseph on the Rio Grande Church.
Seventeen men have been killed by the Albuquerque Police Department since January 2010, and many of the families have been highly critical of APD policies and investigations into the officer-involved shootings. At least two families have moved to empanel a grand jury that would independently review the cases.
But leaders of Sunday’s ceremony made clear that assigning blame was not the purpose of the event.
“Today is just to let all the families of APD victims know that we’re still all together, that we’re still all feeling the pain,” said Mike Gomez, whose son Alan Gomez was killed in May 2011.
“That’s the only purpose here. It’s not to bash APD. It’s not even to really talk about it. We’re here to talk about our loved ones and the families.”
Large photos of about a dozen men stood propped up in front of the church with their names and date of death. As each name was called, a bell sounded and the family came forward to light a candle.
“My son Christopher’s picture is right up here,” said Steve Torres, pointing to the photo, during a eulogy. “Christopher was shot and killed a year and four months ago. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster. You can’t imagine what it is to go through the loss of a child. It’s something I would not wish on anybody.”
Torres, 27, who suffered from schizophrenia, was killed after a violent encounter with two officers who were trying to arrest him. Torres’ mother is Renetta Torres, Bernalillo County’s director of human resources.
“You don’t know how many times I wake up in the morning and the thing that has wakened me up is my wife crying,” Steve Torres said. “That’s a difficult thing to have to wake up to.”
The son of Jewel Hall — an outspoken critic of police shootings in Albuquerque — was shot by police in Michigan on July 1. She described it as “one of the most difficult times in my life.”
“For the 17 families and me, we continue to seek the light in the darkness,” she said.
“For now, this service is the light that shines today as we remember our loved ones and continue to work so their deaths will not be in vain.”
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal